OSHA fines NY contractor $198K for trench safety violations

Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited and fined a New York contractor $197,752 for nine alleged excavation-related violations, according to The Record.
  • The agency issued Amityville, NY-based The Landtek Group one willful violation — for allowing employees to work in the presence of cave-in dangers around an unprotected 10-foot excavation — and eight serious violations for fall, training and written safety program violations, as well as failure to arrange for standby emergency equipment and personnel.
  • OSHA inspectors observed the supposed violations in June at one of the company's job sites, a high school in Verona, NJ, where the company was installing new tennis courts and a synthetic turf field.

Dive Insight:

OSHA announced late last year that trench fatalities doubled from 2015 to 2016, confirming the agency's position that construction excavation and trenching operations are among the most dangerous work site activities. The agency cited a June 2016 trench-collapse death in Columbus, OH, to demonstrate the job's potential hazards.

In the incident, a 33-year-old plumbing company employee was digging a 12-foot trench when the walls collapsed, killing the worker. OSHA cited employer KRW Plumbing for willful and serious safety violations and fined the company almost $275,000. Agency officials said that in order to reduce the risk of accidents, construction companies should focus on installing trench boxes and proper shoring, as well as keeping soil and debris at least 2 feet away from the trench opening.

Due to the potential dangers present in excavation work and other common construction tasks, authorities are increasingly pursuing criminal charges against contractors if they have reason to believe supervisor or management negligence played a role in a serious work site injury or death.

In a high-profile case, immigrant worker Carlos Moncayo died in a 2015 New York City trench collapse despite several alleged warnings to his employer from inspectors that the excavation in which Moncayo was working was unsafe. As a result, general contractor Harco Construction was found guilty of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. The judge in the case sentenced Harco to pay for televised public safety ads, but the contractor refused and paid the maximum fine of $10,000 instead. In addition to Harco's conviction, Moncayo's supervisor at employer Sky Materials Corporation was sentenced to one to three years in prison. Harco supervisor Alfonso Prestia was sentenced to probation and community service.

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Filed Under: Legal/Regulation
Top image credit: NCDOT Communications